In former mining areas it is critical to locate unknown, abandoned mineshafts prior to the development of a site. Abandoned mineshafts are ground disturbances that have very localized effects on the morphology and the physical, chemical, drainage and moisture properties of the surface geological materials and thus thermo-physical properties. Remotely sensed thermal IR surveys provide the potential for a rapid, inexpensive and non-intrusive technique for mineshaft detection. The key parameters of thermal IR radiation and the application of remote thermal IR surveys to planning are described, using case histories from former mining areas in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Field-measured IR temperature differences correlated well with different ground conditions caused by changes in vegetation, disturbance, compaction and moisture-drainage regimes. A thermal anomaly over an area of c. 6 m2 above a known mineshaft was characterized by traces of methane and temperatures higher by 0.5–1 °C than those of the adjacent ground surface. Using thermal IR images, collected with the Daedalus 1260 Airborne Thematic Mapper, a scheme was developed to classify and map mineshafts with and without any observed visual characteristics. When applied using thermal imagery obtained from commercial flights the scheme identified several potential sites of abandoned mineshafts in an area designated for the redevelopment of the Nottingham Business Park, East Midlands. The thermal anomalies were associated with minor topographic features such as mounds, depressions and dereliction, as well as compositional features caused by coal enrichment and Coal Measures mudstone infill. These features had very little surface expression and were confirmed only using soil stripping.